One of my good friends is also a soapmaker. She told me recently that she had learned that we could not use certain words to describe our handmade soap. According to the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations, we handmade soapmakers are not allowed to use ‘exfoliate’ or ‘moisturize’ or ‘condition’, or any other words of this type when talking about our soaps or lotions.
Because, according to the government, our product would then be considered a ‘cosmetic’. And guess what? If I am selling a cosmetic soap or lotion, then I need to wade through lots red tape and get special labeling and permissions for that cosmetic soap, so that I can be on the the right side of the law when using those particular words and others like them.
Hmmmmm . . . I wonder who would benefit most from all this extra red tape?
Well, no matter, I’ll get my attorney right on this. Oh wait, I don’t have an attorney.
Small business doesn’t get any smaller than mine. I am a one-woman show, working out of my home. I am a mild-mannered secretary by day, and a slightly-obsessive soapmaker with a major sweet tooth by night. I make soap with one hand while I’m fending off bill collectors with the other hand, and mowing the lawn and feeding the cat with the other hand (wait – how many hands is that?).
Up until now, I’ve asked other soapmakers the rules for labeling. But I was getting different answers depending on who I asked. So I finally posted my questions on a soapmaking forum, but I even got conflicting answers there. Then I was referred to a section of this FDA website that deals with these issues. I was also referred to this Cosmetic Labeling Guide. Then I was told there are entire books written to explain these regulations, and I was encouraged to buy some of these books.
I haven’t rushed out to buy these books yet, because so far, when I have heard quotes from these books, it was still not clear to me what the government was saying. Perhaps I am just not the sharpest tool in the shed.
The bottom line is, I just don’t have the time, money, inclination or legal knowledge to wade through the complicated government rules needed to comply with some of these regulations, so I will just have to be uber-careful when writing future soap and lotion descriptions. Because they are the government. And they are the boss of me.
I know some handmade soapmakers who still use these ‘forbidden’ words as they are unaware of the extent of these quite rigid FDA regulations, just like I wasn’t aware of them until now. And I don’t fault these other soapmakers at all, because it is a really complicated set of rules the FDA has put out there for us to tiptoe through like a minefield. I’m sure these soapmakers are not intentionally trying to beat the system or be deceitful. Like me, they are just small soapmaking businesses trying to follow the rules and do the best they can.
Then there are those soapmakers who are comfortable with the FDA guidelines and know them backwards and forwards. They have no problem understanding and complying. These soapmakers are the smart cookies among us and they know government-speak. I admire these people and hope to be like them one day. But in the meantime, I have to keep juggling 12 things at once, so I’ll just have to add those government regulation thriller books to my Goodreads future reading list ;-)
Please don’t misunderstand me; I realize we need laws and guidelines. I get that – I really do. But, in my opinion, sometimes the government just goes too far and it ends up bordering on the absurd.
Case in point – I was told today, that I am not even allowed to say that my soap ‘cleanses’!
Yes, you read that correctly. When I went to yet another source to find out if this was correct, I was told: Well, you can call your soap a ‘cleansing bar’, as long as you do not claim that it ‘cleanses’.
Well, that clears it right up.
So, after all this hullabaloo, I’ve been thinking that perhaps I should change my company tag line. I should change it to encompass all the things that the United States government WILL allow me to say about my soap. Maybe I could change it to:
The Enchanted Bath – I make soap that does absolutely nothing.
Hey, I could be the Jerry Seinfeld of soaps!
(Sigh) . . . all I wanted to do was to make soap as a hobby and as a side job to help make ends meet. I had no idea of the headaches that go along with owning your own business. But I am a rule-follower, so I will make every effort to start changing my soap descriptions lest the FDA do a special ops raid on my craft room to shoot up all the offending soap bars.
In closing, dear customers, I hope you will continue to buy my soap. I think it is a wonderful soap because it . . . ummm . . . is rectangular-shaped and . . . uhhhhh . . . it fits in a soap dish, and . . . it does not make you any dirtier.
Note: If you love to read fun stuff (not dry FDA regulations), please feel free to friend me on Goodreads! You can find me here.